by Nancy Sweet, director, Culinary programs and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
I love soup. Hot soup, cold soup, chunky soup, smooth pureed soup, all vegetables, full of meat, all of them work for me. But, they need to be good soups. The canned stuff doesn’t cut it. From-scratch soups with depth of flavor and proper seasoning are necessary. Plus, you always have leftovers that taste even better the next day. And, if you made a really big batch, put it in the freezer to save for a lazy day later. For my house, a bowl of soup with a good sandwich is a perfect cold Saturday afternoon lunch. Below are a few of my go-to soups for this dreary time of year.
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
*4 tablespoons butter
*2 stalks celery, chopped
*2 carrots, peeled and chopped
*1 onion, chopped
*3 tablespoons flour
*1 head cauliflower, core trimmed and rough chopped
*8 cups veggie or chicken broth or stock
*1 cup cream
*8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
In a large pot, sweat celery, carrots, and onion and a pinch of salt with butter over medium heat for about 12 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and mix very well and let cook about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in broth/stock and cauliflower and bring to a light boil. Season with some salt and pepper. Let cook with a very low boil about 40 minutes. Once veggies are tender, puree soup either in a blender in batches or in the pot with an immersion blender until very smooth.
Return to stove and turn heat to medium/ medium low (you don’t want soup to boil at this point because the cream could make it break). Add cream and cheese and whisk together and let melt. Season with any additional salt and pepper and let flavors come together. Serve with a little grated cheese on top.
Is chili a soup? Or is this chili actually a stew? Regardless, it is one of my favorites! I get tired of typical ground beef and bean chili so I like to play around with different varieties. This one I’ve shared with many friends, and it’s super easy to double the recipe for a larger crowd.
*1 pound pork butt, cubed into one inch pieces
* 2 teaspoons salt
*2 teaspoons black pepper
*1 tablespoon cumin
*1 large yellow onion, diced
*6 gloves garlic, minced
*3 jalapenos, diced (optional – add for more spice)
*2 bunches cilantro, minced
*3 tablespoons oil
*3 tablespoons flour
*1 can light beer
*4 cups chicken stock or broth
*2 tablespoons cumin
*2 tablespoons chili powder
*1 tablespoons salt
* ½ tablespoons black pepper
*24 – 32 ounces canned green chilies, depending on your preference
Toss cubed pork with salt, pepper, and cumin. Heat oil on medium high heat in a large, heavy-bottom pot (like a Dutch oven). Add half of pork and let sear in one layer (do not overcrowd) for about 2 minutes. Turn pork cubes over and sear on other side another couple minutes. Remove meat from pan and set in a bowl. Add remaining pork to pan and sear in same way and then add to bowl.
Add another tablespoon oil to pan if very dry. Reduce heat to medium and add onions. Let cook for about 2 minutes. Add garlic, jalapenos, and cilantro and keep cooking until onions translucent and cooked down, about 5 – 8 minutes. Add pork back to pot and mix all together. Add flour and mix together well. Let cook for about 2 minute. Make sure flour doesn’t burn by stirring often.
Add beer to deglaze pan. Stir and let cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock or broth and bring to a low simmer. Add cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and green chilies. Let cook covered over low heat (very low simmer) until thickened and pork is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add more as needed.
I love mushrooms and I find myself adding them to many of the soups I cook. With this soup, you can easily keep the cream out if you don’t prefer the dairy. Just up the amount of stock to keep this more of a rich, thick brothy soup.
Creamy Mushroom and Leek Soup
*8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and coarsely chopped
*8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and coarsely chopped
*8 ounces portabella mushrooms, cleaned stemmed and coarsely chopped
*3 leeks, washed, white and light green parts sliced
*3 tablespoons butter
*1 medium onion, chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*4 teaspoons salt
*2 teaspoons pepper
*1/4 cup flour
*1/2 cup white wine
*3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable to keep it vegetarian)
*1 cup heavy cream
*1/2 cup brandy or cream sherry (optional)
In a heavy large pot (like a Dutch oven), melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook until wilted and most water evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan. If pan looks dry, add one tablespoon butter. Add leeks, garlic, and onions and cook down about 4 – 5 minutes.
Bring heat to medium high, add mushrooms back to pot, and stir to combine. Add flour, mix in thoroughly and let cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to not burn flour. Add in white wine and stir, scraping up any pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add stock and bring to a boil. (Add extra 1 cup of stock now if not using cream). Reduce heat and let simmer about 15 minutes. Add cream, remaining salt and pepper, and brandy if using.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts/